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Contribution of low birth weight to childhood undernutrition in India: evidence from the national family health survey 2019–2021
Authors: Arup Jana, Deepshikha Dey & Ranjita Ghosh
Source: BMC Public Health, 23
Topic(s): Birth weight
Child health
Country: Asia
Published: JUL 2023
Abstract: Background: Infants born with low birth weight (LBW), i.e. less than 2500g, is considered an important factor of malnutrition in Asia. In India, research related to this issue is still neglected and limited. Evidence exists that a large number of child deaths occur in India due to maternal and child malnutrition-related complications. Moreover, it has been found that the cost of malnutrition in India results in a significant reduction of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Thus, in this current context, this study aims to explore the contribution of low birth weight to childhood undernutrition in India. Methods: The study used data from the 5th round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), a large-scale survey conducted in India. The survey collected information from 176,843 mothers and 232,920 children. The study used the last birth information (last children born 5 years preceding the survey) due to the detailed availability of maternal care information. Univariate and bivariate analyses were conducted to determine the percentage distribution of outcome variables. Multivariate logistic regression was employed to examine the association between LBW and undernutrition (stunting, wasting, and underweight). The study also used the Fairlie decomposition analysis to estimate the contribution of LBW to undernutrition among Indian children. Results: The results show that childhood undernutrition was higher in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. The results of the logistic regression analysis show that infants born with low birth weight were more likely to be stunted (OR?=?1.46; 95% CI: 1.41–1.50), wasted (OR?=?1.33; 95% CI: 1.27–1.37), and underweight (OR?=?1.76; 95% CI: 1.70–1.82) in their childhood compared to infants born without low birth weight. The findings from the decomposition analysis explained that approximately 14.8% of the difference in stunting, 10.4% in wasting, and 9.6% in underweight among children born with low birth weight after controlling for the individuals' selected characteristics. Conclusion: The findings suggest that LBW has a significant contribution to malnutrition. The study suggests that policymakers should prioritize strengthening maternal and child healthcare schemes, particularly focusing on antenatal and postnatal care, as well as kangaroo mother care at the grassroots level to reduce the burden of LBW and undernourished children.